New moms might be better off staying home and taking a nap than getting behind the wheel of their car. That’s according to a new study out of Australia, where researchers claim that sleep-deprived moms are at higher risk of an accident when they get behind the wheel.
Researchers at the Queensland University of Technology’s Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety interviewed 24 mothers between the ages of 22 and 39 and asked them to keep post-partum sleep diaries.
The women reported that sleep loss — which went well beyond six weeks — led them to have difficulty concentrating on simple tasks, made them feel like they were in a “haze” or on autopilot. The women also reported tuning out while behind the wheel and having trouble dealing with distractions — who among us has not tried to hunt down a lost pacifier and blindly tried to replace it in a crying baby’s mouth? — while driving.
Dr. Kerry Armstrong, who helped lead the study, says that this level of fatigue can have major implications when a person is on the road. She said in an interview with News.com.au:
“To put the danger of fatigue into some sort of perspective – if someone is awake for 17 hours they have a driving performance similar to that of a person with a blood alcohol level of 0.05 per cent. And if they have been awake for 24 hours it is 0.1 per cent, or two times the legal driving limit. This has serious implications for mothers suffering from interrupted sleep patterns, night after night and sometimes for several years.”
While this study didn’t show that new moms are actually getting in more accidents, Dr. Kerry and her researcher partner, Dr. Simon Smith say that their study shows that new moms are a high-risk group that need intervention and education on the risks of driving while sleep-deprived.
It may also be yet another argument for a longer, more realistic maternity leave. What do you think?
Photo: abardwell, Flickr
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